Keir Starmer's education speech interrupted by climate protesters

'We need a green deal right now', demand climate protesters as they disrupt a major education speech by Sir Keir Starmer

Climate activists disrupted a major education speech by Sir Keir Starmer, calling on him to reinstate a watered-down Labour pledge to commit £28bn to tackling climate change.

As the Labour leader was speaking on Thursday about smashing the "class ceiling" to boost poorer children's opportunities, protesters interrupted by demanding he U-turn on plans to alter the flagship green pledge.

Mr Starmer denied backtracking on the commitment, telling protesters his party hasn't "backed down". "We've doubled down," he insisted.

Coming onto the stage behind the Leader of the Opposition, one protester said: "Young people want action". "We need a green new deal right now," they added.

Sir Keir said: "Will you just let me finish this and then come and talk to you about it."

Once they were escorted off stage, the Labour leader told the audience: "I think they may have missed the fact that the last mission I launched was on clean power by 2030 which is the single most effective way to get the green future that they and many others want."

On the claim Labour has backtracked on the Party's £28bn green prosperity plan, Sir Keir insisted "there's no U-turn at all".

He added: "When I set out as my fourth mission clean power by 2030, that's doubling down on it, particularly on the £28 billion, which is a huge amount to invest for the future.

"Most people look at that mission and say 'if we could achieve that ambition, that is the route to lower bills, to energy security..., to the next generation of skills and jobs that are so vital, and of course, what we need to do in order to meet our net zero obligations."

Labour watered down the plans in June when Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves said "economic stability" had to come first, blaming a dire economic backdrop for the decision.

Ms reeves denied scrapping the £28bn budget, but clarified the figure would be a target to work towards rather than a figure allocated for the plan in the first year of a Labour government, as originally stated.

Green New Deal Rising, the climate group behind the protest at Sir Keir's speech, said they would be forced to "escalate our tactics" leading up to the Labour conference unless the party leader meets them face to face.

Fatima Ibrahim, co-director of the campaign, said Labour is "ahead of the Conservatives" when it comes to climate policies, but "are still doing badly".

Sir Keir delivering his speech on Thursday, in Gillingham. Credit: PA

The interruption happened as Sir Keir was setting out his plans to reform education if he wins the next general election. He told an audience in Gillingham he would get half a million more children reaching their early learning targets by 2030.

"I promise you this, whatever the obstacles to opportunity, wherever the barriers to hope, my Labour government will tear them down," Sir Keir said.

"We will change Britain, break the link between where you start in life and where you end up. "The earnings of our children should not be determined by those of their parents."

The measures he set out included teaching youngsters speaking skills, boosting vocational training including with a new national skills plan, expanding mental health access for new parents, and recruiting more teachers in shortage subjects.

A Labour government would modernise the national curriculum, Sir Keir said, but appeared to rule out proposing changes before the next general election.

"I think the case for change is compelling. I've set out the principles that we would want to underpin the review, but I do think it is best that that review is done in government when we've got the ability to bring everybody together behind what will be a really important change in our education system."

The former director of public prosecutions also condemned the "huge arrogance" involved in the disruptive protests of groups such as Just Stop Oil.

"When I put what they're doing against what we set out in our mission about clean energy, about net zero, you can see the difference between protest and power," he said, pointing to the contrast between "gluing yourself, interrupting, interfering with other people's lives" and the "actual change" a Labour government can bring about.

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